Earlier this spring, we took a look at The 7 Worst Ohio State Football Games Since 2000.
This wasn’t the seven worst performances by a Buckeye team, it was seven absolutely dreadful, gross, poorly-played disasters that barely resembled actual football.
The response was overwhelming.
Friends, we at The Ozone are all about audience service, and you made yourselves loud and clear: “We want more content like this!”
Today is your lucky day. Because as it turns out, the Buckeyes have played in far more than seven terrible games since 2000.
Just like last time, games where Ohio State played like hot garbage but the opponent played well (2006 Florida, 2016 Clemson, 2017 Iowa, 2018 Purdue) are not here. This is all about games where the tire fires were burning equally hot and smoky on both sidelines.
2002: Ohio State 10, Purdue 6
This one has earned a place in Buckeye lore because of one and only one play. You know the one.
OSU was down 6-3 with less than two minutes to play, and facing 4th-and-1 at the Purdue 37. Craig Krenzel dropped back and heaved one downfield that dropped into Michael Jenkins’ arms right as he crossed the goal line.
Brent Musberger shouted “HOLY BUCKEYE” and OSU went on to win the national championship.
The problem is the 58 minutes of game action that preceded that incredible play.
Here is how the first 20 drives of the game ended before that touchdown: Interception, punt, punt, interception, field goal, punt, missed field goal, punt, interception, field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt, punt.
Even the field goals weren’t particularly interesting. Purdue kicked a 21-yarder to cap a 19-yard drive in the first quarter. The Buckeyes drove a whopping 38 yards to set up a 22-yard Mike Nugent field goal on the last play of the half.
It was still 3-3 after three quarters of play.
When you think of this game, you remember it fondly. But that’s only because you’re only remembering one play.
2002: Ohio State 23, Illinois 16 (OT)
Things weren’t much better the next week.
We’ve already established that nothing good ever happens in Champaign, Illinois. This game is further proof.
The 11-0 Buckeyes traveled there to play a 4-6 Illini team in the middle of another lost, pointless season (a/k/a “every Illinois football season”).
Instead of a cavalcade of punts like they had a week earlier, this was a battle of field goal attempts. The teams combined to go 6 for 9.
This turned into an exchange of short drives with unsatisfying endings. The Buckeyes’ three field goal drives went 13 yards, 28 yards, and 43 yards.
Illinois’ only touchdown drive spanned a whopping 23 yards.
OSU averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, double the 1.6 that Illinois put up.
Maurice Hall scored a touchdown in overtime and the Buckeye defense forced a game-ending stop. By that point, there was no joy: just relief that the Bucks were still unbeaten and another terrible trip to central Illinois was done.
2004: Ohio State 24, Marshall 21
If you remember this game at all, it’s for the way it ended: Nugent drilling a 55-yard field goal at the gun to give the Buckeyes a win.
Santonio Holmes also had a monster game, catching touchdowns of 80 and 47 yards and finishing with 10 catches for 224 yards.
Every other Buckeye combined for… not much.
OSU had touchdown drives of 80, 80 and 85 yards. Every other drive went 6, 7, 0, 15, 7, 9, 30, 57, 7, 0, 3, and 18 yards. The Buckeyes entered the red zone once all day.
And this was against a MAC team that finished 6-6 on the year.
The Thundering Herd didn’t exactly play out of their minds, either. They were only 6-for-17 on third downs, averaged just 3.7 yards per play, and committed more penalties than OSU did.
Much like “Holy Buckeye” this is a game remembered for one memorable moment – the 55-yard field goal at the gun. Everything else is best forgotten.
2008: Ohio State 26, Ohio 14
This kind of non-conference game was basically a meme during the Jim Tressel era. The man in the sweatervest always seemed to view in-state opponents as the perfect chance for his Milton Berle impression: He only pulled out enough to win.
On this day, it was just barely enough.
Things were basically dead-even on the stat sheet. OSU out-rushed the Bobcats 162-145, out-passed them 110-109, and outgained them 4.0 yards per play to 3.9.
The Buckeyes’ first half drives covered 5 yards (punt), 7 yards (punt), 15 yards (field goal), 1 yard (punt), 32 yards (downs), 40 yards (field goal), and 12 yards (missed field goal).
When the Bobcats recovered a fumble in the end zone early in the third quarter to take a 14-6 lead, Tressel grudgingly started trying.
The Bucks immediately went 73 yards on 13 plays to cut it to 14-12.
OSU then recovered a fumble at the Bobcats’ 25, setting up a go-ahead touchdown.
Ray Small capped the scoring with a punt return TD.
2008 Ohio State 28, Troy 10
This was two weeks after the Ohio University game, and one week after the Buckeyes got completely liquefied by USC in Los Angeles.
That 35-3 loss was enough to convince Tressel that it was time to throw talented, but raw freshman Terrelle Pryor in at quarterback full-time.
Pryor was immediately one of the most explosive athletes on the field, but it took a while before he really looked like a college quarterback.
His first start game against the Troy Trojans of the Sun Belt conference and the Department of Redundancy Department.
The top-line numbers look solid. Pryor went 10-for-16 for 139 yards and four touchdowns. But in reality it wasn’t nearly that pretty.
The four touchdowns covered 106 yards. The rest of the day, the Buckeyes managed just 33 yards passing.
It was just 14-10 OSU at the end of the third quarter.
This, against a team that would go to Stillwater the following week and give up 55 points to a middling Oklahoma State.
Compared to the previous weeks’ efforts against Ohio and USC, this practically was a revelation. But it was still a terrible game.
2009: Purdue 26, Ohio State 18
Picture the worst-case scenario for a team sleepwalking through a noon kickoff on the road. Yeah, this is the game you’re thinking about.
OSU entered ranked No. 7 in the nation and 5-1 on the year. Purdue was 1-5 and on a five-game losing streak.
The Buckeyes managed just 12 first downs all day.
Their drive chart is basically Human Centipede: Football Edition. Fumble, touchdown, punt, punt, fumble, punt, fumble, punt, punt, interception, interception, punt, field goal, touchdown, downs.
This, from a team that would win the Rose Bowl in a couple months against a team on a five-game losing streak that was coached by Danny Freaking Hope.
You don’t even need to watch the game to see the panic seeping into the playcalling.
Pryor ran the ball 21 times. Brandon Saine was the only other player to carry it, and he had 7 rushes.
Pryor lost four turnovers on the day, two interceptions and two fumbles.
This didn’t make the first edition of this list because Purdue was fairly competent for stretches of the game. The Boilermakers were content to grind down the clock and accept the gifts that OSU was handing them. Purdue held the ball for 9:36 of the first quarter, 10:04 of the second, and 10:03 of the third.
This was Jim Tressel getting Tresselballed by a vastly inferior opponent. That makes for a remarkably unpleasant viewing experience on the whole.
2012: Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
This was a Schiano-era classic years before its time.
The Buckeyes came to Bloomington with a 6-0 record and ranked No. 8 in the nation. The Hoosiers were just 2-3 and had lost at home to Ball State less than a month earlier.
But on this day, their offense turned into an Andre Ware or David Klingler Houston Cougars juggernaut.
Unlike a lot of games on this list, the OSU offense unquestionably did its part. They rushed for 353 yards and three scores, and threw for another 225 and three more scores.
But the defense… woof.
Indiana averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the ground, and 6.4 yards per attempt through the air.
The Buckeyes gave up touchdowns of 59 and 76 yards. The Hoosiers’ final six drives ended: touchdown, field goal, touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown. It took an onside kick recovery to finally seal it with a minute left.
2015: Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13
This was a Tressel-esque non-conference turd, laid ripe and steaming right in the middle of Urban Meyer’s tenure.
The Huskies were a perfectly respectable MAC opponent, but far from the best of their recent vintages.
Meanwhile, OSU was the defending national champions, loaded with talent and considered a strong favorite to defend their title.
The Buckeyes were 34.5 point favorites, but the final score didn’t even total up to that number.
OSU finished with 298 yards of total offense to just 190 for NIU.
J.T Barrett went an unimpressive 11-for-19 for 97 yards with a touchdown and interception. Cardale Jones was an even more lackluster 4-for-9 for 36 yards and two picks.
It was 10-10 at the half, and the Buckeyes’ only second half touchdown came on an interception return by Darron Lee.
Ohio State’s offensive possessions on the day: Interception, fumble, field goal, punt, interception, punt, touchdown, downs, end of half, field goal, punt, interception, punt, punt, fumble, punt, end of game.
2015: Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14
This is the rich man’s version of the 2011 OSU/MSU dumpster fire we relived last time.
Unlike most of the games on this list, this is one you probably remember clearly. So we won’t belabor the agonizing details too much.
The Buckeyes had just five first downs and 132 total yards all day.
Their longest gain on the day was 16 yards. J.T. Barrett went 9-for-16 for just 46 yards. That’s 2.9 yards per attempt, which is… uhhh… not great.
Ezekiel Elliott only got the ball 12 times for 33 yards after being hospitalized earlier in the week. Without Elliott at 100 percent and on a cold, windy day that made passing difficult, there was no Plan B.
Meyer inexplicably punted on 4th-and-1 from the MSU 46 in the first quarter, wasting one of the Buckeyes’ best scoring chances.
OSU’s longest drive of the day covered just 32 yards.
Thanks to a fumble that gave the Buckeyes the ball at the MSU 6 and set up a gift of a touchdown, OSU actually held a 14-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But that was the only thing the offense did in the last three quarters of the game. Their drives over the final 45 minutes of game play lasted 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 1, 6, and 3 plays.
2016: Ohio State 24, Northwestern 20
The Buckeyes lost at Penn State the previous Saturday on a couple of blocked kicks, but still ranked No. 6 in the nation coming into this game.
Northwestern was just 4-3 on the year, and had been largely unimpressive.
Unlike most of these games, the offense was okay-ish. There was only one turnover total. Both teams averaged more than 5.5 yards per play. And yet.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and then got the lead back to double-digits at 17-7. But they never actually pulled away.
Much of that was due to Meyer coaching the bulk of the second half in the fetal position.
OSU punted it away on 4th-and-3 from the Northwestern 45, and 4th-and-7 from the Northwestern 36.
While the Buckeyes were busy trying very hard not to win the game, the Wildcats were hard at work shooting themselves in the foot.
They had the ball 1st-and-goal at the OSU 3 with a chance to tie it in the fourth quarter. They then managed to move backwards 12 yards thanks to a blown-up run play and a holding penalty and had to settle for a field goal.
Northwestern then opted to kick the ball away with 3:35 left on the clock, mismanaged their timeouts, and never got the ball back.